"Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring forth for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land."
By ROBERT E. HAYES JR.
It has been estimated that nearly 40 to 50 percent of the revenue for retailers and merchants is generated between the Friday after Thanksgiving and the day after Christmas.
This explains why the consuming public is bombarded with advertisements and sales of every description imaginable.
We even have names that are dedicated to our shopping madness, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Magazines begin hawking their wares in September and October; cable channels that cater to the buying public will tell us they can ship anything to you in a matter of hours; newspapers are filled to the brim with slick, colorful ads and promotions; and four out of five television commercials are geared toward selling you something for the season.
That's why, in between the hype and marketing frenzy of the last two weeks, one commercial in particular captured my attention and brought me closer to what this season truly is all about. It was a 60-second ad produced by Sears, and at the end of the commercial, all it said was: "Wish big this Christmas!"
The moment I heard it, I was convinced that the real Christmas message could be found in those four words.
All of us wish for something at Christmas. No matter how young or old you, we all secretly wish for something unique and wonderful to happen to us during this season, and in this last column of 2005, let me briefly share with you what I'm wishing for this Christmas.
My first wish
The very first thing I wish is that Christmas would come to everyone! Even though we can look at any calendar and see when Christmas Day arrives, the spirit of the season will not come to all of us. Because we are so consumed with the trappings of Christmas, we often miss the greater joy and the deeper meaning of what this day and season is about.
Christmas is an attitude. You have to look for it, anticipate it, and "go to Christmas" so it can come to you.
If you lack the attitude and the youthful optimism that something wonderful and exciting is about to happen to you, then I fear that Christmas will not come to you.
So many Christmases have come and gone that some people have lost their enthusiasm for it. Yes, they go through the motions of buying and exchanging gifts, singing the carols in church on Sunday, and even praying aloud and in private, but they are not expecting the wondrous to happen. For many, Jesus was born long, long ago, and the joy of God stepping into the world is old news.
So, I wish Christmas would come to everyone.
My second wish
The very next thing I wish and pray for can be found in the hope that we finally understand what this season is all about. It is about a promise made to us by God long ago, and it is about the fulfillment of that promise in this our day.
This hope that I speak of was proclaimed by the prophet Jeremiah long ago. In the scripture that appears at the beginning of this article, you will find the words of hope that kept God's children alive for centuries, and that same hope keeps me alive today.
From the very beginning, God knew a sinful world would need a redeemer. God knew we would need a redeemer today. And, so, a promise was given to the people of Jeremiah's day, just as a promise is given to us in this our day.
The promise: "Behold, the days are coming."
I like that line. It fills each day with anticipation, excitement, and hope. It makes me eager, joyful, and receptive.
This is what Christmas is all about. This is what Christmas means.
And so, when the time was right (Galatians 4:4), God sent forth His Son. God sent him at the most unexpected time, in the most unexpected place. Indeed, Christmas says we serve a God who is everything but commonplace! It also beckons: "Watch, look, and listen!"
Each year, I really expect the unexpected. That's what keeps Christmas alive and exciting for me. If I look for the mysterious hand of God and I remove myself from all those things that could lessen the importance of this special season, then I know I will come to understand what Christmas is all about.
What about you?
So, what are you wishing for or praying for this Christmas? Are you wishing the season would quickly come to an end and all the marketed frenzy would go away? Are you dreading the bills that come when Christmas is over?
Well, for me and my family, we've decided to "wish big" this Christmas! And contained in that wish is the fulfillment of a promise I know God will keep!
Dee and I (and the entire Hayes family) wish you and yours a merry Christmas. We want all of you to know we have experienced God's great love through your prayers, support, and warm words of encouragement and caring.
We love you!